Dressing table

c. 1700–1725
White pine, maple, walnut, and brass
30 1/2 × 33 1/8 × 21 5/8 in. (77.47 × 84.14 × 54.93 cm)
Decorative Arts and Design
Not On View
Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O'Hara Fund
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

General Description

Made in Boston, a relatively small town at the time, this dressing table (and the accompanying high chest [1993.30.A-B]) reveal the sophistication entering furniture design in the colonies during the first decades of the 18th century. Unlike most furniture made during the previous century, these pieces are decorated with thinly cut veneers in keeping with changes in English court fashion that occurred following the accession of Charles II to the throne in 1660. Having been educated on the Continent, Charles was influenced by French and Netherlandish fashion.

William of Orange and his English wife, Mary Stuart, assumed the British throne in 1688 and reinforced the tendency toward more delicate veneered furniture. Thus, this style of furniture is often called "William and Mary." These Continental influences were slow to reach rural England and the colonies, yet some cabinetmakers in towns like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia were working in the taste by 1700.

Although the high chest and this dressing table were originally owned by the merchant William Sever and his wife, Sarah Warren, of Kingston, Massachusetts, the pieces were undoubtedly made in Boston. Unlike the heavier furniture made there in the previous century, these objects supported on thin turned legs are much lighter in scale. They are decorated with patterned veneers and brass pulls applied to a pine carcass rather than with carved ornament which was popular in the 17th century. The case is joined using dovetails, indicating the pieces were made by a cabinetmaker, not a joiner who would simply have nailed the boards together.

Excerpt from

DMA unpublished material.

Fun Facts

  • This dressing table (commonly referred to as a "lowboy") and its accompanying high chest of drawers ("highboy") stayed in the same family from 1775 to its acquisition by the Dallas Museum of Art in 1993.

Web Resources

  • Library of Congress
    View photos of the exterior and interior of the Squire William Sever House, 2 Linden Street, Kingston, MA.